The Rise and Fall (?) of Shareholder Activism by Hedge Funds
43 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2010
Date Written: September 1, 2009
Shareholder activism by hedge funds has over the past few years become a major corporate governance phenomenon. This paper puts the trend into context. The paper begins by distinguishing the “offensive” form of activism hedge funds engage in from “defensive” interventions “mainstream” institutional investors (e.g. pension funds or mutual funds) undertake. Variables influencing the prevalence of offensive shareholder activism are then identified using a heuristic device we call “the market for corporate influence”. The rise of hedge funds as practitioners of offensive shareholder activism is traced by reference to the “supply” and “demand” sides of this market, with the basic chronology being that, while there were direct antecedents of hedge fund activists as far back as the 1980s, hedge funds did not move to the activism forefront until the 2000s. The paper brings matters up-to-date by discussing the impact of the recent financial crisis on hedge fund-driven shareholder activism and draws upon the market for corporate influence heuristic to predict future trends.
Keywords: Shareholder activism, hedge funds, financial crisis
JEL Classification: G34, G38, K22, N22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation